This is it. The race of your life. Head to head. Nose to nose. Flag to flag for the championship of the world. And only your best friend – or your worst enemy – stands in your way as you chase each other around 32 fiendishly tricky racetracks scattered from Paris to Rio.
Then there was the SNES trilogy known as “Top Gear” (or “Top Racer” as it was known as in Japan). The sequels after the first TG became more advanced as far as options for races, cars, designs, and required “money” to purchase parts and accessories won from high pole places in a race. The original Top Gear is valued for the fact that it was simplistic in nature: chose your name, chose your transmission (auto or manual), and chose your controller layout, and a car, and just race!
You each choose your car carefully for speed. handling and power. Grab the controls, and punch it down the blacktop. This is awesome splitscreen racing at its best, and it takes all your skill, courage and splitsecond timing to stay on the road, day after day, night after night, past roadblocks, barriers and pitstops. So gear up. Get your motor running. And go for the nitro. There’s only room in the winner’s circle for one!
The graphics in this game do their job well a neat opening screen is followed by a well laid out options screen which includes an impressive (by SNES standards) digitized photo behind the text. In the game itself the graphics are pretty good and the cars themselves are well drawn. One effect in top gear I have never seen anywhere else is the way that during some races day changes to night and vice versa which improves or worsens your visibility.
Also back drops are unique to each track, you can see the leaning tower of Pisa in Pisa, the Eiffel tower in Paris etc. The pit lane is also well animated and the speedometer, timer.Are intuitively laid out so you can glance at them quickly without crashing. I also liked the little speech bubbles coming out of the side of the car whenever you crash into another car or use a nitro. For example if you get caught in a group of cars and you keep banging into them the driver will say something like ‘get outta my way’ or ‘are you blind’.
The controls are in a word faultless. you have 4 control options including a left handed option where you hold the SNES pad upside down. Maneuvering your car is simplicity itself as is cornering. overtaking on high speed corners is no problem as you can go full speed round the outside or take a small speed drop and pass on the inside.The brake and nitro buttons are easy to reach requiring just a roll of the thumb to reach. In manual gears mode a simple tap of the R or L buttons will take you up or down a gear.
Music and Sound FX:
I have to say I think Top Gear has the best music in any of the earlier racing games. The title song is a classic (It is also the ending music for lotus1 on the genesis) and the in game tracks are also perfect and always seem perfect for whatever track you are on, high notes seem to coincide with sharp turns and generally the music has a rhythm that manages to get the adrenaline going as you are tearing round hairpin bends. The sound effects of the car (skidding, engine noise etc.) are also perfectly recaptured.
Top Gear’s Strong point is its thrilling gameplay. The fact that its permanently split screen (like Mario Kart) will always have you competing against another “human” player is it’s trump card. If you are playing in one player mode the second players car is controlled by the SNES and it will have to refuel just like you. In two player mode player 2 will control this car. In each race there are 20 cars and your position on the starting grid is determined by your finishing position in the previous race e.g) if you finished 1st you begin the next race in 20th, 2nd = 19th and so forth.
When you finish first on any given track in a country, you earn 20 points, 2nd place earns 15 points, 3rd place earns 12, 4th place earns 10, and 5th place earns 8. That is the cut off point however, because if you do not finish a given track 5th place or better (out of 20 cars), you will not advance to the next track. In addition, you must finish at least 3rd or better on any given country or continent in order to advance to the next country.
There are 32 tracks over eight areas around the world: the United States, South America (mainly in Brazil, but oddly it includes one track in Mexico), Italy, Germany, Japan, France (including one track in Monaco), The United Kingdom, and Scandinavia (Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Denmark).
In addition, you can choose one of four cars, most of which contrast sharply from one another. The white car is best for fuel consumption but on average it clocks the lowest speed, while the red car is the fastest on average but drinks gasoline like water. The blue and purple cars share a similar speed and gas usage rate, but the blue car handles more soundly around turns then the purple car does.
There are big differences between each car and playing the game with a different car makes each play feel like a different game as depending on your car you could have a very manueverable machine or something that handles like a brick on wheels. (when driving the blue or red car it becomes much more difficult to overtake and avoid objects). Or you could have a vehicle that needs to be refuelled once, twice or not at all on a particular track.
Also acceleration varies which is crucial when you’re starting off or just after a bad crash or pit stop.the nitro power also varies from car to car also which affects the duration and overall speed boost. Also max speed comes into play also some cars ‘hold’ speed better than others and do not seem to slow down as much after a nitro boost or a steep hill.
When your low on fuel you have to pit stop to do this simply steer into the pit lane and when your fuel level is sufficient drive out again. Pit stops require tactics as pitting early in the race will give you more time to catch up. If you do run out of fuel it does not mean you are out of the race as your car drifts forward for a while and if another car hits the back of you will start moving again.
Because of this its possible to do a whole lap with out fuel until you either manage to finish or reach the pits. Although more than likely you will lose a lot of positions waiting to get hit or stop in a lane where no other cars even goes. In 2 player mode you can just get the other guy to give you a push though.
The tracks are all well designed and on the longer courses it is possible to have many different tactics about when to refuel or nitro. Some tracks like the black forest are true to life as this track is full of steep hills just like the real place. The speed in Top Gear is phenomenal, it is not un-playably fast but it’s devastatingly quick and smooth when compared to the likes of F-Zero and Mario Kart which are sluggish and seem slow in comparison.
Top Gear has three difficulty levels the higher levels make the computer cars faster and more aggressive and also add more obstacles to the course. Although completing the game is not too difficult you should try to finish first in every race, as any loser can finish fifth. also you should try and beat the course record which is shown on the pre-race screen.
As well as that you should attempt to complete the game with every car like in the red car you can not afford to crash and you can hit speeds of around 240 mph if you are good. The red car also guzzles fuel like there is no tomorrow but goes a lot faster than the blue and the white car. To sum up the white car is for beginners, the blue and purple cars for intermediary players, while the red is for the pros.
Top Gear does not hold a lot of weight in the history of racing games because it does not have the super deluxe choices, features, and add ons like it’s sequels did, or other games that would follow it on other systems. And that is a shame, because not only is Top Gear simplicity in its most compelling form as far as strictly racing goes, but it also paved the way for other games to copy the system it implemented and make it even better, solely from a gameplay stand point.
If you have an SNES and want to re-live a glorious Pre-whacked out racing Era of games, Top Gear would be one of those you will want to get your hands on. The experience will give you arguably be one of the best racing games ever in your collection.